It's been a year in office for Mayor Tory and City Council, over a year since the Mayor and much of Council endorsed the Food Nation platform. A quarter through their term, has action been taken to reach these goals?
The Food Nation platform (find below) has also been endorsed by thousands of Torontonians in communities throughout the City.
So where have we seen significant action on these commitments that align with our platform recommendations?
Council with political leadership from Mayor Tory and Deputy Mayor McConnell has approved a robust Poverty Reduction Strategy that includes food. The Mayor championed housing funding during the federal election, and the Strategy asks for provincial and federal co-operation on poverty reduction including income, along with much more that can be done by the City itself with partners. This was all led by significant community action.
The City is undertaking a number of initiatives, including launching FoodStarter, a food incubator for food producers. Economic Development is also launching a new incubator grant fund to community groups supporting job creation. Poverty reduction plan has several important objectives on employment and entrepreneurship - these include removing barriers, and supporting the creation of livable incomes for better employment! On Toronto as a food destination, the City is participating in the Culinary Tourism Trail Working Group which could do a lot to promote our small food producers.
5) Local Action
The Food By Ward initiative has launched, bringing together people across the city building great information in their wards, which will be used to connect residents with councillors in the new year and identify opportunities for important work.
Significant in all of this is an important change of tone from the previous administration at City Hall with a willingness to press for some action that builds the City up and supports health and those who are vulnerable. A number of other food initiatives are also being supported by the City. However, overall trends are fairly troubling.
Councillors need to act significantly to support their residents with action in their neighbourhoods - to put forth effort and funds that supports local work and yields results.
In many ways, the City is not on board with important food projects. Community members, organizations and businesses need stronger co-operation and fewer roadblocks from all City divisions to create community solutions. The City is still often the biggest roadblock.
With Significant work having been done on a number of fronts, the groundwork laid, 2016 will be the time for the City to act on programs, initiatives, and provide a strong budgetary contribution for food justice and poverty reduction. This will help to create those jobs, projects, food access and higher incomes that Toronto needs to become more livable for many, and ensure strong results by 2018.
Food Nation Platform
1) Create opportunities to grow, cook, sell and buy fresh, healthy food in all neighbourhoods and in every major new housing development and neighbourhood plan.
City Council and staff should, as per the City's Official Plan, work with developers, communities and businesses to build urban agriculture, commerical kitchens, food stores, farmer's markets and communtiy food hubs into new housing, using City infrastructure and new policy, neighbourhood planning, and Section 37 funding on communtiy food priorities.
2) Reduce the number of Torontonians below the poverty line by the 2018 election by 40% or more by championing income inequality.
Toronto’s Mayor and Council should champion income inequality by implementing a robust and ambitious anti-poverty plan, and by showing leadership to provincial and federal government to create income levels that allow people to afford the basics like healthy food - through tools such as increased social assistance rates, child benefits, or guaranteed annual income.
3) Create good food jobs for youth and marginalized communities.
Create a new Food Jobs Office (like the City’s Film Office) for our biggest employer. Task it with increasing good jobs by reducing barriers to employment and entrepreneurship, supporting and creating infrastructure like food business incubators, make local investments, and ensure Toronto’s neighbourhoods are food destinations. Work with and learn from cities and ambitious food organizers in places like Austin, New York, Vancouver and Chicago to create innovative opportunities here.
4) Increase the availability of fresh, healthy food in community food assistance programs.
Improve health and dignity for Torontonians through support and funding to substantially increase the amount of healthy food distributed to those who need it. Create a sustainable fund for fresh food and the infrastructure to prepare it.
5) Work with constituents to create a better City through food in their neighbourhoods - Food Nation members bring your local concerns and solutions to your candidates!
Decide top priorities with residents and work with local stakeholders to implement food justice initiatives that create jobs and healthy food solutions.
On May 5th, Food Forward celebrated Toronto’s first Food Justice Day with a reception at City Hall for councillors and good food advocates to celebrate the important work being done in Toronto. Councillors Cho, Colle, Cressy, DiCiano, Doucette, Filion, Fragedakis, McMahon and Mihevc were on hand to support the Food Nation platform and reaffirm the city’s commitment to ensuring that all Torontonians are able to overcome economic and racial inequalities, and access healthy, affordable, and culturally appropriate food.
FoodShare’s Nydia Dauphin and caterToronto’s Vanessa Ling Yu told us about the important food justice work they are doing, and offered some insight into where more effort is needed.
Food Forward would like to thank FoodShare, Toronto Food Policy Council, Malvern Action for Neighbourhood Change, 5N2 Soup Kitchens, the Aangen Community Centre, and many others for joining us; and caterToronto, Good Food for Good, Evelyn’s Crackers, and Building Roots for the delicious food!
- View the Food Justice Day proclamation, read on behalf of the mayor by Councillor Mihevc
- Review and endorse the Food Nation platform and our work over the last year and a half to push food forward
- View the Food Justice Committee's presentation for Food Justice Day explaining the rationale and need for more action on policies to address food access during this Council term
- Read the Toronto Youth Food Policy Council's endorsement of Food Nation
- Read Councillor McMahon's comments on Food Justice Day
Food Justice Proclamation
May 5, 2015
Speaking notes for Councillor McMahon
Welcome, introduction and thank you
- Thank you to everyone gathered, especially Food Forward for creating an opportunity to talk about food justice in Toronto
Why talk about food justice in Toronto?
- Communities across Toronto face unequal access to healthy, affordable, and culturally appropriate food.
- 12% of people in Toronto face food insecurity (Tarasuk 2014)
- Last year there were over 800,000 visits to food banks across Toronto and this number is increasing annually (Daily Bread Food Bank 2014)
- Unequal access to healthy food reflects both economic challenges as well as geographic challenges.
- Racialized communities across our City face additional barriers to accessing food, in particular Aboriginal and African Canadian communities (Tarasuk 2014).
- Some communities in Toronto face longer travel times to grocery stores, this access correlates with low income and unequal access to transportation and social services (Hertel et al, 2014; Toronto Public Health 2015).
Toronto's leadership on food policy
- Toronto's Food Charter signed in 2001, supports Canada's commitment to "the fundamental right of everyone to be free from hunger" (Toronto Food Charter 2010).
- The Toronto Food Policy Council and Food Strategy, working with community and City partners have done important work to improve food security in Toronto: mobile good food market, student nutrition program, community gardens and urban farms, farmers markets, diverse and thriving food retail sector all contribute to making Toronto a leader on this issue.
- Communities across Toronto are working hard on food justice. For example, the Black Creek Community Farm convenes a food justice committee in the Jane-Finch neighbourhood, community food programs in Malvern, Parkdale, and Rexdale bring people together to plan and implement food projects, indeed this work is happening all across the City
- There is more to be done, and we have to work together, collaboratively.
The City wants to partner with Toronto's food community to address food justice
- Some promising initiatives on the horizon. Food security is a pillar of the Mayor's Poverty Reduction Strategy. Through the Poverty Reduction Strategy and the City's Strong Neighbourhoods Strategy there will be opportunities further strengthen this work. Many of you have provided input into this process.
- The Toronto Agriculture Program is exploring access to new space for community gardening and urban farms – ie on Hydro corridors and in City Parks.
- Toronto Public Health and the TTC in partnership with FoodShare are launching a new mobile good food market
- Food justice is tied to many of our pressing priorities at the City of Toronto: secure employment, housing, and access to services.
- We will need to work collaboratively on these priorities to realize food justice in Toronto.
- Thank you for organizing this reception, thank you for attending.
Last week, Toronto Mayor John Tory proclaimed May 5, 2015 Food Justice Day in Toronto. For this special occasion, Nydia Dauphin, FoodShare Toronto’s Food Justice Senior Coordinator, was among the guest speakers invited to City Hall to share their work and recommendations to advance food justice in the city.
About FoodShare Toronto’s Food Justice Work
FoodShare Toronto is a non-profit community food organization that develops long-term solutions to address food system inequalities. Our programs follow a food justice community development model to rebuild community control of our food system by partnering with community leaders, organizations, and schools.
FoodShare prioritizes work with low-income communities and schools through focused programs in fresh produce distribution, food literacy education, urban agriculture, nutrition and community cooking. All programs support a variety of health, economic, environmental, community, and social benefits, and seek to improve food access for everyone currently underserved by the food system.
Since first founded in 1985, FoodShare’s visionary leadership has pioneered long-term replicable solutions, and cultivated public empowerment and awareness of food issues. FoodShare believes that high-quality affordable healthy food should be universally available, and advocates for policy change needed to address the root causes of hunger.
The Cross-Cultural Food Access Innovation Hub
Through the Cross-Cultural Food Access Innovation Hub, FoodShare supports local solutions to address systems of oppression and exclusion in the food system. With this work, FoodShare has made it a priority to work with members of the indigenous community (the Three Sisters’ House/Nswo Nshiimenhig Endaayat), the African-Caribbean community (the Black Farmers and Growers Collective) as well as the New Comers community (Thorncliffe Park Women’s Committee), by providing organizational resources to support these community-led groups.
Food Justice Network
FoodShare Toronto animates a Food Justice Network in partnership with Food Secure Canada. Food Secure Canada is a pan-Canadian alliance of organizations and individuals working together to advance food security and food sovereignty through three inter-locking goals: zero hunger, healthy and safe food, and sustainable food systems. The aim of this network is to elevate food justice understanding and application across the country.
Growing Food and Justice for All - Toronto Local Empowerment Group
At the local level, FoodShare coordinates the Toronto chapter of the North American Growing Food and Justice for all initiative, which works to dismantle racism and empower low-income and communities of color through sustainable and local agriculture. From May 22-24, we will be hosting for the second time in Toronto a Growing Food Justice by Uprooting Racism Training with facilitators from Growing Power. This training aims to push forward the integration of racial justice principles into the food justice movement, to give hands on tools, to continue a strategic dialogue and to enable an exchange between activists who work in this field.
The following recommendations were put forth:
1. a City wide adoption of the notion of racialized food insecurity. A Racialized group is a group categorized or differentiated on the basis of membership in a racial group. This process becomes the basis through which groups are subjected to differential treatments. This is fairly known when we are talking about poverty, un/underemployment or incarceration, with statistics attesting to the overrepresentation of people of colour and indigenous communities in these instances. But food access is no different. In 2012, PROOF who conducts research to identify policy options to reduce food insecurity, released their Report on Household Food Insecurity. The report revealed that 28.2% of surveyed indigenous households in Canada were food insecure, 27.8% for Black households respondents, and 19.8% for recent immigrants to Canada (less than 5 years) compared to a Canadian average of 12.6%.
Recognizing that food insecurity is also racialized would lead to a promotion of community-specific initiatives and move away forom a colour-blind approaches that leave so many of these communities' needs unmet. Adopting this notion would ensure that city planning policies were informed by that lens and propose solutions that lead to structural change, directly challenging systemic racism in the City.
For example, the Urban Heart Indicator that was used last year to determine the new Neighborhood Improvement Areas in Toronto limited its analysis of food security to the presence of healthy food stores. A more thorough analysis informed with the notion of racialized food insecurity at its core would have looked at ethnic composition of each neighborhood in conjunction with the cultural appropriateness of food, its affordability and income levels to name a few. This in turn would lead to the adoption of solutions at the city level that challenge the root causes of these inequities which are systemic in nature.
2. Increase the availability of trainings for social services and health care professional staff around food justice and inequalities. As first responders directly in contact with food insecure communities, these practitioners must be equipped with the tools to understand how structural racism operates and how this affects the dynamic of their work in these communities. The training we are hosting next week is but one example of the initiatives that should be more readily available across the city and that have the potential to truly change the narrative of food insecurity.
3. Increased city dedicated resources and staff (food justice/equity animators) to work with communities most impacted by food injustice to ensure that their voices are heard and are central to the solution process. From our experience, we see an increased difficulty of getting funding for community-led groups already doing a lot of the frontline food justice work, and more often than not as volunteers. Appropriate support must be given so that they are in a position to lead the charge.
When funds are made available, a common way for these unincorporated grassroots initiatives to receive them is to enter into a trustee relationship with a larger organization. But these relationships can put the grassroot organization in a vulnerable position, as paternalistic dynamics can easily arise, leaving the grassroots far from an empowering experience. Additionally, the paperwork and bureaucratic obligations when funds are made available can be so heavy that they take precious time away from the organization’s much needed groundwork. A funding stream at the city level more adapted to the structural nature of these grassroots would increase the impact of the City’s support.
- Nydia Dauphin is the Food Justice Senior coordinator at FoodShare Toronto